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$5 Million Tyson Gift Lifts New Agriculture Research Center

The Tyson Family and Tyson Foods Inc. have made a substantial gift toward creating a first-of-its-kind agricultural research center in Arkansas – one of the most consequential gifts to advance water quality and sustainability research in the state's history.   

by University of Arkansas
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Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences siteRepresentatives of the University of Arkansas System, Tyson Foods, WER Architects and Nabholtz Construction unveil a sign marking the future location of the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences.Fred MillerA $5 million gift from Tyson to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will significantly finance the new $16.3 million Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, with construction scheduled to begin later this year on the Agriculture Division's property in northern Fayetteville off of Arkansas Highway 112 (Garland Avenue). The 60,000-square-foot building will feature high-tech agriculture research laboratories that will advance plant and animal sustainability, along with water quality research.

"This gift and this facility will advance Arkansas agriculture into the distant future and help our state compete in the very competitive global world of agriculture research for many generations to come," said Mark Cochran, the division's vice president for agriculture. "To have an iconic name like Don Tyson attached to it demonstrates what a significant facility this will become. It's an outstanding legacy of an amazing family and company, and this is by far one of the most historic days in the state's history of agriculture research."

Springdale-based Tyson Foods, one of the world's largest producers of chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods, has a decades-long history of supporting agriculture and sustainability research, particularly in its home state. The company was founded in 1935 by John W. Tyson, whose family has continued to lead the business with his son, Don Tyson, guiding the company for many years and grandson, John H. Tyson, serving as the current chair of the board of directors. Tyson Foods has approximately 124,000 team members employed at more than 400 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world.

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 This is the largest individual gift Tyson Foods has ever given to a University of Arkansas System division or campus.

"My dad's involvement in and commitment to agriculture in Arkansas is legendary. To be able to formally recognize that with this building, in partnership with the UA System Division of Agriculture, is indeed an honor for our family and the company founded by my grandfather," said John Tyson. "The research and other work that will take place in this building and on the farm surrounding it will, I'm sure, be vitally important in helping secure the future of agriculture and agri-business in our state for generations to come."

The new multi-story facility will be the epicenter for agricultural research in Arkansas. Division scientists will operate numerous state-of-the-art agricultural laboratories that conduct and facilitate multi-disciplinary research, including a wide range of current and future agricultural issues facing Arkansans.

Simply, this facility will better help researchers create better, healthier, and more efficient ways for growing crops, raising farm animals, producing food, and protecting the state's natural resources, Cochran said.

The complex will also be the new administrative home for the Division's Agricultural Experiment Station, which has been based in Fayetteville for more than 125 years.

Facility approved by trustees

This past September, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved the division's request for the new facility and the hiring of WER Architects and Nabholz Construction to partner with the Division of Agriculture to construct the facility. Both were the top choices of the selection committee charged with interviewing and investigating potential architects and construction companies for this project. The request for approval was made by UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt – a supporter of the facility since its conceptual phase – and Cochran, and received unanimous support from trustees.

"The Division of Agriculture is unique among the system's 18 campuses and units as the only one with a presence in all 75 counties, and it has specifically had a presence in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas for more than a century," Bobbitt said. "This generous gift by Tyson Foods and the Tyson Family will solidify the division's efforts for future generations and fully allow the Division to continue  its mission of advancing agriculture research in our state."

Community-friendly facility

Along with its significant research capabilities, the building will also be a community-friendly venue, with the opportunity for citizens to utilize a 300-seat multipurpose room/exhibit hall - as well as the ability to be a part of public programs offered through the new facility. The building will also be unique in design, with its greenhouses potentially being on the top of the building rather than as stand-alone buildings.

"We are in the beginning stages with the architects, but we certainly want it to fit with the uniqueness of Fayetteville, and it will become an aesthetically pleasing facility," Cochran said. "It certainly won't be just a big box building."

The division expects to break ground later this year with a completion date to be determined.